Daniel 8:15-27 Daniel Sermon #12 April 24, 2016
Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”
Title: “Will You Let Satan Outsmart You?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
If you have ever played a game against an opponent, you have probably tried to figure out your adversary’s next move. Whether it is a chess move, a football play, or the next card being placed down, you try to anticipate what your challenger will do, so you can be prepared to counteract that move.
This principle holds true in your Christian life. That is, you should be familiar with how your spiritual opponent, Satan, will likely tempt you and attack you, so that you can stand your ground against him. This is what Paul said in 2 Cor. 2:11 “…in order that Satan might not outsmart us. For we are not unaware of his schemes/designs.”
Now while neither Satan nor the Lord are mentioned in this chapter, we see both of their fingerprints all over the action here. We can look behind the curtains of all the wicked deeds in Daniel 8 and know that Satan will be very active, bringing his dastardly schemes into play. Therefore I want you to look with me at the strategies and schemes that our foe, Satan, tries to use against us. Now while even these wicked designs are ultimately under God’s total control, still we would be wise to recognize Satan’s schemes against us, so as to be better prepared to resist the devil, so that he will flee from us (1 Peter 5:8-9)
So let us look at five devilish designs as found in Daniel 8, so that Satan will not outsmart us.
Let’s go behind the curtain, and see what our infernal foe is up to.
- Satan Desires to Inflate Your Ego.
While great conquerors such as Alexander the Great get but a verse or two of notice in Dan. 8, the center of attention is a rather insignificant king who has a huge ego. Antiochus Epiphanes IV starts out small (v. 9), and does not have the same power of a man such as Alexander (v. 22), yet still he becomes very strong, but not by his own power (v. 24a). How did he become so fierce and dominant? I believe Satan saw that he was someone who loved to puff himself up, and therefore Satan supplied him a devilish strength and cunning (v. 11 “It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host.” V. 25 “He will consider himself superior.”)
Ronald Wallace comments: “The forces of darkness stoop to use any little petty earthly ruler they can.” Here they use Antiochus. “It is because of his allegiance to such (satanic) powers that this little man, so insignificant in himself, so mean and cunning, can do a work that seems to have such greatness.”
Think about the famous French general who went from “The Little Corporal” to become “Napoleon the Great.” Or the infamous German who went from a lance corporal in WWI to become the Supreme Commander in Chief in WWII, Adolf Hitler. Satan inflated both of their egos in order to use them to cause massive amounts of death and destruction.
Think about it: Sin against God is always self-centered and self-glorifying. So when you focus on yourself, you are inviting Satan to buy stock in your company, and if you keep it up, he will become chairman of the board of your life.
Here’s three quick signs of an inflated ego. (1) You talk more about yourself or what you know that you do listening to others. (2) You’re not interested in people who aren’t interested in you. (3) You often thing “I’m better than….” Or “I’m more disciplined or more caring than…”
The solution is simple but painful: die to self. James 4:6-8 “This is why the Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.”
What about your ego, your self-centeredness? Don’t let Satan inflate it.
2. Satan Applauds Your Illusion of Being in Control
Consider the rulers in Daniel Eight. Alexander the Great conquered the known world at the age of 33! Antiochus Epiphanes exerted irresistible and savage power against the Jews. Both of these men believed in their ability to conquer any foe and to win any battle. We read in v. 8 that no one could stand against the ram (Alexander). In v. 12 and 24b we see that the little horn, Antiochus, prospered and succeeded in everything he did. Both rulers imposed their iron-fisted control over the territories they conquered. Their military prowess seem indestructible. And yet neither was able to control his own final destiny. Alexander died of a fever at the young age of 33; Antiochus died at age 50 under mysterious circumstance of a very painful disease, accompanied by some deep psychological anguish. Both men thought they were in control of their lives and their destinies. And Satan was applauding them from a front row seat, as he wanted them to believe that illusion.
He uses the same strategy with us today. He is clapping with approval when you rely on your experience instead of trusting God for things that you’ve done a thousand times. The devil congratulates you when you brush off someone’s constructive criticism, because you don’t think you need it. Satan celebrates when you try to gain some control over your life or your body by purposely cutting yourself, or through anorexia, or through secular self-help programs. Sinclair Ferguson comments: “We are never so vulnerable, as when we believe ourselves to be strong by our own strength.”
The solution? You need to repent of and relinquish any illusion of control. And the best way to do that is to ask God to show you more of Himself: how sovereign, loving, glorious and powerful He is! Then it will be easier to realize how little you actually control, and how much we need to cast ourselves completely into His hands. So begin each day with a joyful affirmation of your complete and utter dependence upon the Lord for everything you need to do that day!
3. Satan Seeks to Distract You from God’s Truth
We read in v. 12 that the little horn, Antiochus, threw truth to the ground. That truth of course, is the Word of God, and Satan worked through Antiochus to keep God’s people from finding their hope and foundation in the infallible Word of God, the Bible. We know from history that one way he did this was by burning copies of the sacred scripture.
We know today that Satan seeks to undermine the whole counsel of God in the life of Christians. (See Acts 20:29-31, where Paul warns the elders at Ephesus that after he leaves them, fierce wolves will come in among the flock, and they will distort the truth, in order to draw disciples away after them.). Now Satan doesn’t merely destroy Bibles or send false teachers into the pulpit, though he does do that. More often for us, he keeps you and me from God’s truth by distracting us from reading and mediating on the Bible, on a daily basis. (You know the excuses you use: “I’m too tired” “I’m too busy.” “I can’t focus.”) And if he fails to distract us from reading God’s Word, he will try to distract our hearts from what we’ve read, through the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world, so that Word gets choked out. (Luke 8:14). Isn’t that right? One minute after you close your Bible, everything you read seems to vanish!
If Satan can distract you from the Bible, you will become spiritually malnourished, and you won’t have the wisdom or strength to stand against his clever temptations and hellish trials.
The solution? “Put on the whole armor of God…stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God…” (Eph. 6:11, 14, 17). Read God’s word. Meditate upon it. Slow down and savor the meat of God’s precious Word. Don’t let it go until you have applied it to your life in specific ways. Then go out and put it into practice. (Remind yourself of what Jesus warned about those who heard God’s Word but failed to put it into practice, in Matt. 7:24-27).
Here are some suggestions: When today’s service is over, ask one another, “What did God impress upon you from the sermon?” In your small group or with a good friend, ask each other, “What has God been challenging you with?”
My friends, don’t let Satan distract you from God’s precious and powerful truth! Don’t let the Truth get thrown to the ground and get trampled on!
4. Satan Wants You to Flunk (Biblical) History
George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That is true on an earthly level, and it is true on the spiritual plane. Satan does not want you to learn from how he’s worked in the past. Why not? Because he wants to use the same tactics on you in the future.
Where do we see this principle in Daniel 8? In Daniel’s vision, he is told of a wicked “horn” or ruler who will come and wage war against the saints (vv. 9-12, 23-25). We know that much of that prophecy was fulfilled about 400 years later, in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes. But in Daniel 7:20-25, Daniel had another vision about a similar ruler, but that “horn” is not the same one as in Daniel 8. For example, the horn in Dan. 7 came up from the 10 horns of the fourth and last beast (Rome), while in Dan. 8, the horn comes from the horn of the goat, the third beast, (Greece). So while they share many characteristics, they belong to different time periods. This means that such kings are part of “a recurring pattern of a clever but ruthless world dictator who stops at nothing in order to achieve his ambitions.”
Sinclair Ferguson notes that all these patterns, which began back with Satan’s deceit in Genesis 3, will reach their climax when the final Antichrist, the man of lawlessness appears (2 Thess. 2:3-10). These hellish patterns will reach a boiling point in the last days, when Satan’s power is unleashed for a while, only to be utterly crushed. In other words, Satan has been using the same oppressive tactics and patterns for all of history… and we need to learn from this history.
(Listen to the Rolling Stones’ old song, “Sympathy for the Devil,” and you realize how the Evil One has been working the same designs throughout history.)
One personal application: How has Satan gotten to you in the past? What is your spiritual Achilles’ heel? If you know where he’s tempted you before, what will you do to reinforce your defenses today? Learn from your past battles with the devil so you can be on guard today.
Ask yourself: “In what situations have I been most tempted and vulnerable? How can I guard what I know to my spiritual or moral Achilles Heel? What safety nets can I set up, so someone can catch me as I begin to fall? What ‘Buddy System’ can I use to help me?”
One national application: If political candidates promise you heaven on earth tomorrow, please check their life-long historical pattern of whether their core values reflect heaven or hell.
Don’t let Satan blind you to his history. The leopard cannot change his spots (Jer. 13:23)
5. Satan Tries to Hide the Cross of Christ
We read in Daniel 8:11-12 that the little horn will remove the daily sacrifice in the temple, and indeed, that is what Antiochus did in 168 BC when he desecrated the temple, the altar, and the holy of holies in Jerusalem. When he did that, God’s people had no way of offering sacrifices for their sins! How does that relate to us today? Remember that the daily sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed us to the once and for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross, to atone for our sins. And as Antiochus took away the daily sacrifice for sin in the second century BC, so Satan today seeks to hide the necessity and sufficiency of Christ’s final sacrifice for our sins upon the cross. He does this in two opposite ways. First, when we sin again and again, Satan tries to keep us from seeing the power of the cross to save and cleanse us. Second, when we are doing well, Satan tries to get us to think that we don’t need the cross of Christ, because we’re pretty good ourselves. So we either think “Christ can’t help me; I’m too bad, too far gone,” or w think “I don’t need the cross right now, because I’m doing pretty well.” So Satan tries to get us to be either overly discouraged by our sins, or overly optimistic about our self-goodness, and in both ways, he tries to hide the cross of Christ from view, so that we won’t cast ourselves upon Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, we all desperately need the cross of Christ to deal with our deep sin problems and with our false sense of self-righteousness.
What about you? What are you doing with the cross of Christ?
We’ve looked at five ways in which Satan tries to outsmart us. (And remember that your crafty enemy never takes a vacation; he is a prowling lion, seeking to devour you.)
Now as we finish, let me simply mention five ways we can outsmart him:
- Don’t give the devil any opportunity to establish a beachhead in your mind or spirit. (Eph. 4:27)
- Put on the whole armor of God each day, so that you can stand against the devil’s schemes. (Eph. 6:11ff)
- Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
- Believe that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
- Rejoice! God will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Rom. 16:20)